Her death notice would have caught my eye even if I had not known Emma Meluch. After noting her age (94) and her surviving family, the May 1 notice said she was "instrumental in the passage of two Westlake Charter Amendments.”
I first met Emma when I moved to Westlake 18 years ago and transferred my League of Women Voters membership to the chapter here to which she belonged. Right away I learned that Emma was an astute person, well informed on what was happening or about to happen in city government. I lost touch with Emma when she was no longer able to attend League meetings, so I missed my chance to let her know personally that she was inspiring to me. But it is not too late to take notice of Emma’s legacy to good government by telling a little of her story.
The two charter amendments linked to Emma’s attentiveness have been extremely important through the years to the way things work in Westlake, and will continue to be so beyond many of our lifetimes. One amendment incorporated features of the “Sunshine Law” into the Westlake City Charter that are stronger and more precise than state law. The other charter provision championed by Emma requires voters to approve any proposal to develop more than 30 acres of land in Westlake.
“She was quite a passionate lady,” commented Westlake Councilman James Connole as he acknowledged Emma’s death at the May 2, 2013, Westlake City Council meeting.
“She was one of the brightest people I have ever met,” added Council President Michael Killeen. “We didn’t always agree, but she did have an effect on the city – no question about it—and in the end everyone is better for it. We will miss her.”
Mayor Dennis Clough stated that Emma’s efforts were “one of the reasons we have Crocker Park today. She surely will be missed. Her best interests were always for the city of Westlake and we listened.”
Denise Rosenbaum, Clerk of Westlake Council, remembered making Council meeting packets especially for Emma for quite a long period. Everyone knew that Emma would be attending the meetings and asking for the materials anyway.
Westlake’s Assistant Director of Planning Will Krause pointed me to the charter amendment that was Emma’s pride and joy. It is Article IV, Section 13, titled “Rights Retained by the People,” and has been amended only slightly since its passage in May 1984, by a vote of 5,318 “yes” and 1,297 “no” votes.
It had taken more than three years for Emma’s charter campaign idea to bear fruit. Although she had convinced the Westlake Homeowners Association and the League of Women Voters of the wisdom of these changes, city officials at the time were adamantly opposed. Then-Mayor Ted Busch was quoted in the Elyria Chronicle-Telegram on March 6, 1981, as stating that the proposed rezoning amendment would “bring government to a halt.”
Improving government transparency and increasing voters’ say on zoning decisions were just a few of the items on Emma’s list. Fellow League members remember her leading discussions on retention basins and related water issues, among other local, state and national topics. Emma Meluch’s abiding attention to our city’s progress was remarkable.